Vietnamese Held by Philippines Illegal Casino Operator Return Home


Posted on: May 30, 2023, 06:47h. 

Last updated on: May 30, 2023, 12:19h.

A nightmare that, for some, began more than a year ago in the Philippines has finally ended for dozens of Vietnamese nationals. They’re back in their home country after having been duped into providing slave labor for illegal casinos in the Philippines.

Police conduct investigations at the Clark Sun Valley Hub in Pampanga, Philippines
Police conduct investigations at the Clark Sun Valley Hub in Pampanga, Philippines. After they uncovered a human trafficking ring and freed over 1,000 people, a group of Vietnamese citizens returned home. (Image: Channel News Asia)

On Tuesday morning, a group of 60 Vietnamese individuals returned to their families in Vietnam. They had recently been liberated from illegal gambling establishments in the Pampanga province of the Philippines.

For others, the nightmare continues. The Vietnamese embassy states that investigations in the Philippines have led to the release of more than 1,000 individuals. Among these are 437 Vietnamese. But there may be others they haven’t found.

Overdue Repatriation

On May 5, the Philippines military raided the establishments, breaking up the human trafficking ring and freeing the workers. The security forces rescued 1,090 people originally from Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal, Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. At least 12 people await trial for their involvement in the trafficking operation.

The victims had been coerced into working for various operations in the Clark Sun Valley Hub in the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, close to the capital city of Manila. They were responsible for assisting with illegal gambling platforms, phone scams, and other crimes.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, working with the consular section and Hanoi embassy in Manila, is collaborating with local authorities to visit and offer assistance to Vietnamese citizens who were trafficked to the Philippines. In some cases, the victims were brought into the Philippines illegally and don’t have passports or IDs.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ National Security Committee convened on May 25 with the aim to review the ongoing events. They are working with their counterparts on the Philippines side to ensure the speedy repatriation of all the remaining citizens.

In addition, Vietnam’s Consular Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs are taking leading roles in facilitating the safe passage of the victims. With the help of border protection officials, they created a roadmap to cover the logistics of their return to Vietnam.

Ties to POGOs

At the center of the crimes are several companies, including Sun Valley Clark Hub Corporation, CGC Technologies, and Colorful and Leap Group. They were allegedly working together to carry out their illegal activities, and had ties to the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) ecosystem.

CGC was a licensed POGO operator at the time of the raids. After the news broke, the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) immediately suspended its license. It then canceled it on May 24.

The result is yet another call for the permanent cancellation of the POGO segment, which once thrived and delivered millions of dollars in tax revenue to the Philippines. However, the sector began losing ground when the government attempted to raise the POGO tax rate. That forced many licensed POGO businesses to move underground.

The Philippines National Police, the Department of Justice, and other agencies are working together to try to prevent any further escalation. The issue has reached a boiling point within the Philippines government as well. An increasing number of lawmakers support a heavy-handed approach to end the issue.

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